Madison County, Indiana offers some of the best rural landscapes a Hoosier roadtripper could ask for, but also offers easy access from just about anywhere with I-69 running through the heart of the county. From the small towns of Alexandria, Elwood, and Lapel, to the ever-growing Pendleton, and county-seat Anderson, there is something for everyone in Madison County, making it an excellent destination regardless of what you're seeking in a day-trip or longer adventure.
I talked with Anderson/Madison County Tourism Director Maureen Lambert (better known as Mo) on last week's Indiana RoadTrips.com Podcast, and among the many topics we discussed that were of interest to visitors, we took a look at five breweries and wineries throughout the county that you'll want to visit when you get the opportunity.
Oakley Brothers Distillery
34 W 8th St, Anderson, IN 46016
Oakley Brothers' Distillery is a unique experience, where you'll find an onsite distillery, brewery, taproom, and drink lounge featuring locally sourced products to showcase the attention to detail found in all their food and beverages.
"One of the unique things about the Oakley Brothers Distillery in Anderson, which has really grown over the years, is that they use local resources as much as possible," Anderson/Madison County Tourism Director Maureen Lambert (better known as Mo) said. "For instance, they use Madison County Winery for some of their products, and they use other local products for some of their cocktails, and try to develop local partnerships as much as possible."
Oakley Brothers' Distillery has been a staple for the Anderson area for quite some time, and has developed a reputation for great service, reasonable prices, and tasty food and drinks. It's all original as well, so you get the best quality and won't get it anywhere else.
Parking can be difficult at times, and athough they can get busy, the wait is never an issue, and service is never sacrificed. The distillery is a large open warehouse and has several seating areas. Along with tradition bar seats and tables, there is also an area with couches and cushioned seats. A perch in front of the open garage doors on a nice spring or summer evening is very enjoyable. Hats off to the owner-brothers who are typically on-site and can be found taking care of customers.
Pax Verum Brewing Company
908 Main St, Lapel, IN 46051
Pax Verum Brewing Company is tucked in the heart of Lapel, right off of Main Street, which is quiet and well kept. Whether you're there during warm weather and enjoying live music on patio, or during the winter months with the wide assortment of light and dark beer offerings, and exceptional service, Pax Verum Brewing is a hot spot for locals and a great spot for visitors as well.
"Pax Verum Brewing Company has so many things happening right now," Mo said. "First, everyone should check out their Pax Verum’s products on tap and cans. The latest brews include Mexican Hot Chocolate, Little Differences, and Orange Dreamsicle, but they have so many choices."
If you're not a beer or wine drinker, they have several alternatives including the coveted Cherry Cider! While there isn't a kitchen on the premises, there is food available from neighboring businesses that is allowed to be enjoyed at Pax Verum, and they do have different dessert items as well.
"In their outdoor area during the winter, you can enjoy the Pax Verum Winter Igloo Experience," she said. "You can rent a heated igloo, sit back and relax with drinks and food in style (the rental does not include drinks or food).
Don't forget to check out the upcoming 2nd Annual 'Way Out Beer Fest" later this year.
9830 W 280 N, Anderson, IN 46011
Bonge's Tavern is a great little hole in the wall tavern with outstanding food, limited to about a half dozen choices on a chalkboard, all delicious and impossible to make a wrong choice. The service is efficient and friendly, and the helpings are huge, and ensuring you will not go home hungry.
While it may not be officially a brewery or winery, you'll find all the spirits and beverages you'll need, along with the incredible menu. Reservations are required well in advance, as Bonge's Tavern has a large following and folks tailgate in the parking lot before their reservations. All this info is covered well on their website – bongestavern.com.
"People go there to tailgate," Mo explained. "They'll get there early and tailgate in the parking lot until their reservation is ready. It's a really neat experience, but you're in the parking lot, socializing and tailgating, and then when your reservation is called, you go on in the restaurant."
The efficient service is likely partly due to the attempt to get people in and back out so the next reservation can get seated, but you don't feel rushed. The meal service moves along rapidly, drinks, salads, main course, etc and then you're ready to go. If one did feel rushed, the popularity has to be considered, and it does not come at the expense of the food, service or experience. I was fine with vacating so the next group could get our table and enjoy it as well.
Eating at Bongie's Tavern is as much for the experience as it is a culinary delight. Small town cooking, courteous service, and a cool atmosphere! What more could you ask for in a roadtrip eating experience?
Madison County Winery
10942 S 400 E, Markleville, IN 46056
While you have to take some backroads to get to the Madison County Winery in Markleville, Indiana, many find it well worth the drive, even RV'ers!
"You know, that's just one of the things that we enjoy here in Madison County, you can easily get to the city, or into the country," Mo Lambert said. "And Madison County Winery is one of places out in the country that actually has an RV park as well now because people like to come and stay overnight or for a few days, so that has turned into a very neat destination for folks visiting from out-of-town and have a place they can bring their RV and experience the winery and the county leasurely. And the winery has been a great partner to work with," she went on to say.
The atmosphere is relaxing, inviting and pleasant when you're on the grounds of the winery, which has brought many great wines to the county, not to mention the delicious wine slushies that are great for a mid-summer evening, or anytime of year!
You'll find some very unique recipes and flavors at the Madison County Winery, including chocolate, or a caramel or candy apple for those with a sweet tooth, or perhaps the Dukes Tomato (like a V8), or anything in between.
The wine tasting is free at Madison County Winery, so you have an opportunity to experiment and find your favorite without spending a lot.
Whether you're taking a day trip to Madison County and want to stop in for a drink with a view, or whether you're making a weekend or a few days of it, you'll find comfort, convenience, and tasty beverages at Madison County Winery.
Tin Plate Food & Spirits
2233 S J St, Elwood, IN 46036
Tenderloins are a symbol and sign of quality in Indiana. We take our tenderloins seriously. If you don't offer a tenderloin as big as your head, then you are not trying!
The Tin Plate Food & Spirits in Elwood, Indiana adheres to this philosophy as well. If you want an amazingly delicious huge tenderloin in Elwood, this is the place! The tenderloins are so big you can share it with your date, friends, or take it home for yourself to enjoy later.
And if you are compelled to share, just ask for an extra bun and toppings on the side and they will be more than happy bring them. The tenderloins are tender and breaded to perfection.
"You know, in Indiana we are very proud of our tenderloins, and The Tin Plate lives up to that expectation with a great breaded tenderloin," Mo explained. "You definitely have to cut them in half to even try to fit them on the bun, and I think most people take some of it home.
"It's just a great tasting tenderloin," she went on to say. "Patrick hand-makes his own sauces and things like that, and he uses Red Gold products because Elwood is home to Red Gold. Your ketchup, tomatoes, and their other brand names are all processed in Orestes (Indiana), and in Elwood."
The Tin Plate Food & Spirits offers both a family dining area, as well as a bar area for over-21 service. And if tenderloins aren't your thing, The Tin Plate has you covered with plenty of other menu items from salads, to burgers to manhattans. While there may be nothing fancy about The Tin Plate, it has a small town appeal, with excellent service and good, affordable food.